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CESIUM

m a g a z i n e
Ar t • Media • Culture • Politics

(The Razor Issue)


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CESIUM
m a g a z i n e
Vol 1. Issue 2. January/March 2006
Editor-in-Chief
Adam Moore

Assistant Editor
Brooke Orcutt

Art Director
Andy Sommer

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Copyright 2006 by Cesium Magazine. All rights reserved.
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Please support independent publishing
(table of contents)
Mis•cel•la•nea Cul•ture
From the editor 6 In Search of Bennifer 24
Contibutors 7 Essay by Janice Houlihan, looking for the origins
Correspondance 8 and politics of name combination.
Upcoming Events 35 Erasing the Razor 27
Essay by Paul C. Middleton. What lengths will we
Art go to in order to leave shaving behind?
Flowers, Sobriety, Out of Town Checks and
Pol•i•tics
Questions Like So What 9
Fiction by Lewis DeJong. A flower delivery Plain Speaking 29
driver searches for more than an address. T. Dalley Waterhaus takes a rare look at the Bush
administration’s successes.
Swimming in the Nervepool 13
Ben Timmons explores Ebon Fisher’s recent Why No News is Good News 32
exhibit at the UNI Art Gallery. Essay by Paul C. Middleton. How the modern
media divides us all.
Roommate Wanted 19
Fiction by Jim O’Loughlin.

Me•di•a
Audibles 20
Brian Tambascio reviews three albums from
Neil Diamond, James Blunt and Mice Parade.
Why I Love Project Runway 21
Essay by Scott Freeh, on his newly discovered
love of designing.
Return to the Cult 23
Brian Tambascio returns to the cult hit,
Bottle Rocket.
#SJOHJOHUIF8PSMEUPUIF$FEBS7BMMFZ
DInIng InnovatIons
6A>;DGC>6.INA:.JH=>
):L4DG@.INA::A>

$DL6VH
=:;D;I=:4:6G

0EH86A:$I6A>6C>C>C<

):L(>8GD7G:L:GN

$DL6VH+G:B>:G K:CI:CI:G

www.barmuda.com

314 Main Street 314 Main Street 1521 Technology Parkway 1521 Technology Parkway
Cedar Falls, 266-5285 Cedar Falls, 266-5285 Cedar Falls, 277-1255 Cedar Falls, 277-1385

Black Hawk Village 3295 University Ave. Black Hawk Village 115 Main Street 119 Main Street
Cedar Falls, 266-1132 Waterloo, 234-4333 Cedar Falls, 266-1101 Cedar Falls , 266-0868 Cedar Falls , 266-9995
(from the editor)

I was watching the Super Bowl, along with 90 million trust me, that’s perfectly normal for such a sharp issue. I
other viewers, when an advertisement for the new could keep going with the corny razor analogies (we’re
Gillette Fusion came on. At first I was convinced it was trimming away the unnecessary fluff and leaving you with
a joke, or quite possibly a low-grade hoax. I rubbed my nothing but smooth writing?), but you’re smart, and I’m
eyes, and then checked the alcohol content of the beer in sure you get the point. Or have stopped listening anyway.
my hand, but quickly realized it was true. For those of you As for the proof in the pudding, we’re proud to
that missed this engineering marvel, I should explain. give you an ecclectic variety of writing, from a look at the
A five blade razor. Five blades. For years upon artwork of Ebon Fisher to an exploration of the Bennifer
years, the two blade razor reigned supreme after thou- phenomenon to T. Dalley Waterhaus’ admittance that the
roghly throttling the single blade razor (and barber shop Bush administration might actually be doing something
shaves) into submission. And then in 1998, Gillette un- right.
veiled the three blade razor and shaving purists around It’s shaped up to be a fine issue, and we plan to
the world cried blasphemy. Three blades were sure to give you more of what you’ve come to expect from Cesium
shred our faces and increase the irritation. However, de- and our brand new website, www.cesium-online.com.
spite the temporary uproar and worry, men settled into If you’re new to the magazine, give us a read (or three)
this new tool for combating the five o’ clock shadow, and it and keep an open mind. If you’ve been with us since our
worked beautifully. Later on, four blades debuted without humble beginnings, thanks for sticking around. Hopefully
much fanfare, but now we have five blades, and an almost we’ll hear from you, no matter what category you fall into.
unlimited ability to remove the uppermost epidural layer So sit back with your favorite can of Barbasol, and
on our faces. get ready for some razor-sharp writing (that was the last
And thus, with such potent inspiration on my side, and one, I promise).
new Gillette stock in my portfolio, The Razor Issue was born.
I’m hoping that this issue operates like a five-
bladed implement criss-crossing your hot lathered face,
leaving you a bit torn up at the seams, but overall, quite
Adam Moore
Editor-in-Chief
refreshed. You might even experience some irritation, but

mis•cel•la•ne•a / 
(Contributors)
Because everyone deserves their 15 minutes.

Brian Tambascio Scott Freeh wrote about his T. Dalley Waterhaus Paul C. Middleton wrote
remains our resident undying love for Bravo’s applauded Republicans two articles for us in
media contributor, Project Runway. “It’s for once in “Plain this issue, and goes
despite the fact that definitely not the manliest Speaking.” “Seriously, to school in Madison,
he can’t seem to get show to watch, but TiVo don’t get used to Wisconsin. He regrets
his reviews done on doesn’t love me any less this,” he reminds us. he has nothing witty
time. He attends the for it.” He is currently a He spends his time in to include for the
University of Iowa. student at the University Boston, thinking about contributors secton.
of Iowa, and professes to politics way too much.
having, “Olympic fever.”

Jim O’Loughlin teaches Ben Timmons explored Lewis DeJong is a Janice Houlihan is a
English at the University Ebon Fisher’s world undergraduate English writer/gossip fiend
of Northern Iowa and is in “Swimming in the major at UNI. He is attending New York
the publisher of Final Nervepool.” “It was a planning on doing University. In her spare
Thursday Press. His surreal experience; seeing graduate and post- time, she cleans up
recent fiction appears giant organs made me graduate work in after her boyfriend, and
in the North American realize how big my liver Creative Writing. In the hopes he gets this hint.
Review, The Sink, and probably is by now.” He is shower, he sings sad
Living Forge. a student in the University songs.
of Northern Iowa’s art
department.

mis•cel•la•ne•a / 
(Correspondance)
Who doesn’t love getting mail? Except when it’s ripping you a new one.

The 1968 election between Humphrey and Nixon was said to be one of the
“widest-ever” margins in history (“Plain Speaking”, Sep/Dec 2005). It was
actually a fairly close margin, and Nixon’s win over McGovern in 1972 was
considered a landslide. Also, technically Gerald Ford was never elected;
he got the job after his boss quit. A fun fact; he was the only person to be
elected to neither the Vice Presidency nor the Presidency.
Perhaps you might look into hiring a fact checking department.
-J. Fisher • Davenport, IA

The story, “Surviving Lillian,” by Chuck Dooley (Sep/Dec 2005) was listed
as fiction. But I definitely think this has to be an error, because I once
dated a girl named Lilly who broke all the windows on my Jeep Liberty
with my own golf clubs after I broke up with her. You may want to ask
Chuck if he’s ever been to LA.
-Nick Hamilton • Los Angeles, CA

Glad to see The Big Lebowski finally represented for being the
masterpiece that it is (“Return to the Cult”, Sep/Dec 2005). Thanks. Maybe
we could get a piece on Raising Arizona?
-Paul Seawell • Cedar Rapids, IA

You gave the latest album from Sigur Ros a lower rating than an album
featuring a masked rapper who collaborates with late-night
cartoons (www.cesium-online.com)? I think we’ve found the editorial
taste level.
-Jenny K. • Framingham, MA

Hey, what up? Don’t know who I’m writing to and I don’t give a damn!
This website is very pleasurable...
I liked the magazine and would like to get in on the next.
If you down, come get down! If not, two fingers. Peace.
-Chauncy S. • Cedar Falls, IA

Chuck Dooley’s piece about the college students chugging milk for lack
of better things to do (“Challenging the Gallon”, Sep/Dec 2005)
sounded absolutely painful. You might want to make sure politicians
don’t read that, or else we’ll get an age requirement placed on dairy
purchases. Oh, and by the way, the fact that there were no females par-
ticipating just goes to show you which one is the smarter sex.
-Tara Nichols • New York, NY

Make sure to write us at cesiummagazine@gmail.com with all your


comments, gripes or corrections. Letters may (or may not) be edited
for clarity or content. Readers who have correspondance selected will
receive a pat on the back for being ambitious.
mis•cel•la•ne•a / 
(Flowers, Sobriety, Out
of Town Checks, and
Questions Like So What)
Fiction by Lewis DeJong
We start our story with a young man, Sal Murte,
driving his van toward the bank. It is Friday and dan-
gerously close to the bank’s closing time. He scribbles
an amount on the check and his name on the back as
he hustles inside just in time. It is the last check he will
send as his summer and his summer job are now over.
Of the money he made, over half went out of town in
check form—checks with empty memos. What a worth-
less summer he had, toiling in a van with nothing to show
for it but half of his salary and a fading tan. In order to
understand how futile a summer it was, we must go back
to the beginning of it and see what transpired.

In early May it was arranged that Sal would get a job at


the local flower delivery store. He would be given a uni-
form, a decal for his van, and a list of instructions and ex-
pectations. It would be an easy job that he enjoyed doing;
it was something to pass his time. Plus, there was joy in
bringing people joy. “I am literally bringing people joy,”
he would say, even though he was figuratively bringing
them joy and literally bringing them flowers. Nonethe-
less, he would enjoy it and made several friends at work,
friends that would invite him out for drinks. He would go,
of course, although he would not drink—he refused.
His handsome sobriety, however, would catch
the attention of the bartenders, especially one brunette
named Ashley. She would flirt with him even though he
would not show interest at first. She persisted still, hoping
he would eventually cave, and he finally did—throwing
his arm around her shoulder. They would go, ironically,
to the bar that she worked at, with the same people that
were usually there. The only difference on the weekend
was that Sal’s new girlfriend would not be working, but
rather taking Sal into poorly-lit areas of the bar where
she would sit on his lap and copy what actors would do
when they were supposed to be in love.
She would ride with him on deliveries. They
would hold hands and rest them on the cup holders.
They would choose radio stations together, singing the

art / 
songs like duets. He would let her steal a flower from the Then, they would waste time just looking at the flowers and
bouquets with two dozen, though not from single dozen talking about anything that distracted them from what they
spreads. She would smile and smell it thankfully. After work, should be doing.
the van would sway under a tree alongside the road leading “You remind me of my son,” the man said gruffly
up to her stepfather’s impressive house. Then, after a while and paternally. He stirred a drink, just by moving the
longer, the van would rock back and forth. He would fill his glass. He offered Sal a cocktail of his own, but Sal refused
hands with her body—breasts, ass, anything. She would to drink.
lean into him, and then recoil only to lean in further. “Well, thanks. I never got to know my real dad. I
“I want you,” she would call, scratching his chest. was put up for adoption right away.”
I hardly know you, is what he wanted to reply but The old man rolled up his sleeve and showed Sal
he could not be in the throes of young lust and sensible at Murte his arm. Right at the elbow, but at the inside—where
the same time. So he just closed his eyes and mimicked a junkie would have a mark—the old man had a birthmark
her cries. in the shape of a cursive, uppercase Q, which meant it also
Memorial Day came around and Sal went to go looked like a poorly drawn 2. “You got one of these?” he
pick up Ashley—they were going to spend the holiday said, pointing to the dark symbol.
together. He could see the streaked cheeks as soon as she Sal did the same to his sleeve and pointed to a
opened the door, and he knew that something was wrong. birthmark at the same place. “Yeah, I do,” he said in matter
“Is something wrong?” he asked as he they trudged down- which reflected a number of emotions: incredulity, anxiety,
stairs to talk. distaste, excitement, care, but none more than tranquility.
“I’m pregnant.” “I saw it when you first came in; I didn’t have to see
“Is it mine?” that to know you were my kin, though. All those flowers you
She slapped him. brought me, I ordered them—just to see you. I think you
“It yours, but it’s ours. I want to have it. I think I are my grandson, but before we can do anything, the nurs-
love you, Sal. Perhaps this is a sign; this is the beginning. ing home wants me to take a blood test for the orphanage.
My stepfather wants this to work, but he wants you to help They said you have to pay for it cause they don’t want no
out to prove that you will be involved. I know we can do kids coming in here to take our money. That’s just what
this—let’s have this baby.”
Resigned, he said that he
“He knew that she felt it was not they said. I can put you in my will, I
got money, you just gotta prove it to
would help. She would make plans over, but he would never talk to them. You can have a family. We can
for him to take her to the hospital, her again.” be a family.”
help finance the pregnancy, and be Sal just smiled and hugged the
there for her throughout the process. Then, he could be old man who was now nearly in tears. Albert explained
part of the family. He knew that she felt it was not over, how everything was to work and Sal agreed. Still, when
but he would never talk to her again. Regardless, he would he walked out through the revolving doors, passing the
send her some money by the end of the short summer. incoherent noises from the shadows of men, now smoking
And so what? clove cigarettes in slacks lined with colostomy bags, he
He would take the rest of May off and begin again knew better. On the drive home he felt the June air and
on the first of June when he gathered his check—half of knew that he would not return to Shady Pines. He would
which was sent out of town. drive back to the flower shop and tell the boss that he had
to be given a new route. Regardless, he would send the
man some money.
June would begin with a burst of activity in the flower busi- And so what?
ness. Sal would work overtime, nearly fifty hours a week.
The majority of his day would be spent running to a north-
of-town nursing home and back—delivering some roses, July would begin slowly as the first few days leading up
sometimes azaleas, and tulips to an old man or woman. to the holiday were long days—long because time moves
The drive there would be slow, but the one back would more slowly when the sun is constantly imposing on skin.
be slower. While inside, he would hustle through the nurs- Cold sodas would boil after only a few drinks or several
ing home to avoid the stale air circulating, the sad faces songs; the reentering of the van would become a diffi-
contorting, and lame workers talking. At least three times cult process because of the vinyl seats that radiated. Sal
a day he would speed over to Shady Pines, although he would begin to slow down his work and fraternize around
thought it was funny when he would call it Piney Shades. the shop more. This would improve his status among the
Then around Father’s Day, the burst would exacerbate and other workers who enjoyed people who would slow down
he would deliver numerous orders there. their work, and especially those who would slow down
One old man in particular would get many of the their work to fraternize; this ballyhoo would not include
deliveries. Sal would bring all of them and soon got to the boss.
know this old man whose room was beginning to fill up Sal would do this so much that he began to get in-
with foliage. The man, Albert, would talk about his lack of vited to the parties of his coworkers, including the big 4th of
a family—something Sal would relate with—and how he July blowout at Todd’s lake house. Sal accepted this offer, not
wanted a new one—something Sal would not comment on. because he was terribly social, but he was terribly bored.

art / 10
The weekend led off with a bonfire and a contest electrons bouncing off one another just out of habit, or it’s
to see who stayed up the latest. Sal did not win, and in fact not just the binary world that we walk through each day.
woke up early enough in the morning to find Todd insert- Someplace where people aren’t like the flowers they love
ing a syringe between his toes, after which he passed out. so—growing, blooming, then dying in an ephemeral burst
Sal carried him to the beach house, although Todd pushed of nothing. Someplace where it all means something be-
off again once there. Sal ignored this behavior for the sev- cause people are like flowers because they grow together,
eral days that the party continued, but he could not stop roots touching underground.
looking at Todd’s toes. Todd would come over and offer Sal He would never send the money to Ashley who
a drink, to which he refused. Both young men would look at birthed his child and would have loved him. He would
each other confused—wondering why the other would do never send money to Albert who was his grandpa and
what they were doing. The parties would continue through would have given him a human connection. He would
the long weekend and July, with Sal catching Todd doing never send money to Todd who was a good friend to Sal
more heroin, but Sal still showing up and hanging out. and would have gotten clean even without him. Sal Murte
July was winding down when Todd finally came to just couldn’t bring himself to be a valuable part of these
him for help, asking him: “Will you help me?” people’s lives.
Sal wanted to help his friend who had dark bags Nonetheless, he imagines Ashley having the baby
under the eyes; his friend who was twitching and mistak- with the support of the old man his wrinkled hands holding
ing orders at the shop. Scarier, though, was where Todd the newborn in a room filled with flowers. He imagines Al-
was going, not where he was. bert finding a son in Todd who now brings him his flowers
“I always thought of you as a good friend, even a and sits with him, stroking their birthmarks. He imagines
brother. If you helped me out right now, you can move in Todd out of rehab, engaged to Ashley, celebrating their
with me, it could be like family. I just need a little money wedding with pictures, cake, and an assortment of flowers.
for rehab, and then I get some money from my parents. Or maybe they all start a family and have a garden. All he
They’ll help as long as I’m clean, so I need your help to get could do was hope, because he was on his way out of town
there. If you can’t or don’t want to, that’s fine, I’m not asking looking for another job so that he could rush to the bank
anybody else. You are the only one I trust.” on Fridays and send half of his check out of town.
So, Todd got everything prepared and told Sal And so what? cs
that it was going to work out fine. Sal left Todd’s home and
knew that he could not see him again. He had his sched-
ule switched again to avoid Todd and the whole crowd. He
would try to get him the money before summer was over
though.
And so what?
August began and Sal waited for his last check and
then told his boss that he had to be going back from where
he came—this was a lie, as Sal was going someplace new.
He got his last check and drove quickly to the bank where
he sent half of it away, which is where we began our story.

As was said earlier, Sal had a bad summer and now it was
over. It was a bad summer because nothing really mattered.
Some girl lied to him to try to get him to stay and start a
family. Some old man wanted a friend who will mourn him.
Some junkie needed a friend to get by and not kill himself.
And what is worse was that they all wanted some money.
Sal did not have any money. He sent half of it out of

M a k i n g a r t m a t t e r.
town to a husband and wife whose child had died when Sal
had gotten drunk and called her for a ride. It was a night
when the roads were icy. Her car crashed and he did not
even know about it until the next day. The parents started a
foundation at a local library to which Sal Murte gave money Featuring inventive fiction, inspiring poetry and
out of an ugly combination of guilt and obligation. He still insightful nonfiction from today’s finest writers.
could not feel anything, but perhaps those checks were his
way of doing something human and taking responsibility http://webdelsol.com/NorthAmReview/NAR
Subscribe today for $18.00 a year and save 20%
for killing that girl.
So we end with Sal leaving the city, going to find
somewhere new where maybe something will matter and
he can forget what has happened. Maybe somewhere
it’s not just synapses firing for no reason, or it’s not just

art / 11
The new album from Many Giants of Industry,
featuring, “Caps Lock”
In stores now
art / 12
(Swimming in the Nervepool)
A look at Ebon Fisher’s Media Rituals
and Zoacodes
by Ben Timmons

As I get closer to Ebon Fisher’s world, I can’t help but


wonder exactly what to expect. The exhibit, titled Trans-
formations in the Nervepool: The Rituals & Zoacodes of Ebon
Fisher, leaves me bewildered. Friends and acquaintances
in the art department at the University of Northern Iowa
have tried to explain it to me, but they usually ended up
tripping over their words for lack of an effortless classi-
fication. Technology, science and culture were all usually
mentioned in an interchangeable order, but they were all
just too broad to give me any idea of what to expect.
So I decided it would be best to simply check it out
for myself.
What I find really does seem to defy a standard art
classification, in the most positive sense imaginable. The

art / 13
from left: Human Pelvis, Dear Little Rat’s Brain, I See Now

first thing I see when I step into the quiet, dimly lit gallery
is a far wall with massive scientific drawings of the human
organs responsible for our senses. To my right and left are
giant images of the bladder, liver, stomach and pancreas.
This is definitely modern, I say to myself.

***

Artist Ebon Fisher began his experiments with technology


and culture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in
1984. He was awarded the job of teaching an undergradu-
ate class, entitled Creative Seeing, and this would prove to
be the spawning point for his pioneering work.
Fisher began organizing what he termed “media Dear Little Rat’s Brain
rituals,” bringing together a group of Boston musicians,
dancers and a DJ to perform biologically-themed ceremo- abstract manner. The piece, Dear Little Rat’s Brain, is just
nies. The group was named Nerve Circle, and would begin as the name sounds: a large representation of what could
Fisher’s experiments in visceral theatre, which combined only be the nerve center for a rodent. It is displayed next
blaring music, random media and a highly interactive audi- to Human Pelvis, and I find myself anchored between the
ence, all designed to open participants’ minds to new forms two images, wondering where the inspiration came from.
of thinking and experience. However, after encounters with The placard next to both indicates that they were
the Boston police (interrupting a Nerve Circle performance used in various media rituals, but does not elaborate. I
entitled, Evolution of the Grid, in Fisher’s darkened loft), imagine throbbing music, perhaps techno, but not neces-
and an eventual eviction, Fisher relocated to Williamsburg, sarily, and people dancing around these giant depictions
Brooklyn, where he would hone the concept of these media of beautiful biological design, standing in stark contrast
rituals, and push his unique art even further. to the artificial technology that is used to power the lights
and sound.
*** But as I look at these images towering over me, I
start to think that the two do not stand in stark contrast,
I spend some time examining these large images of human but instead bring together technology and the natural
organs, and eventually make my way around the left side of world into a sort of strange, post-modern organism where
the gallery. Most of the art shown depicts biology in a very the delineations between technology and biology do not

art / 14
Human Stomach Enlarged Neuron Drawn by Psychologist

necessarily exist. ning Party, where participants would have their eyeballs
It reminds me of The Matrix. I suspect that’s not scanned, and then look into a video camera installed in
what he had in mind. the middle of the party, and share their thoughts on the
In an interview much later, I get a chance to ask process. There was the simply named Suction/Reflection
Fisher about these organs. “Since I was an undergraduate System, where participants would move through a space to
student all my imagery has flirted with science -- not focal points on the floor (identified with strobe lights and
because science is absolute or true, but rather it’s a popular directional markers), and set off projections of microscopic
reference point. I see the images of organs and networks tissues in the process. Fisher also developed the Web Jam
as non-objective, living phenomena emerging within with fellow artists, a de-centralized hybrid mesh of various
culture’s relationship with nature,” he replies. “cultural, technological and environmental webs,” all in the
effort to create new hybrid life forms, bringing together
*** everything from video to fire to exploding watermelons. In
the course of the Web Jam, all of these webs would interact
Once in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Fisher set about address- and create new organisms and subsystems.
ing and modifying what he called, “living traditions.” The Throughout all of these media rituals, the combi-
media rituals would continue in differing forms with the nation and interweaving of human and media technology
help of other local artists, and evolved into his monthly sought to bring the two towards one collective meeting
Media Compressions. “Media Compressions were set up to point. In the midst of these rituals, the artistic community
share information in a classic democratic circle, layering of Williamsburg, Brooklyn formed and flourished.
popular media in a second skin around the group,” Fisher
says. Participants would bring media in a variety of forms ***
(slides, video, music, etc.) and share with the group, with
the media samples becoming layered on top of each other, Moving from the left side of the gallery, where most of his
building in intensity until climax and total silence. early biological work is displayed, I move into a dark room
Fisher soon branched out from Media Compres- with soft, almost tribal-sounding music emanating from the
sions, hosting notable events such as the Eyeball Scan- ceiling. The placard at the entrance indicates it is called a

art / 15
Zoacode Sanctuary for Northern Iowa

art / 16
Zoacode Sanctuary. On the walls are figures resembling
neurons, or exotic alien hieroglyphics, glowing brightly,
courtesy of several projectors mounted above. At the far
wall, a larger version of the white figures is cast in a blue-
green, and slowly morphs from one figure to another in a
hypnotizing cycle.
There are two benches inside the room. I sit down
and look at the figures on the wall, deciding what to make
of them. Underneath each figure is a caption, seeming to
describe the mysterious symbol.
“Link and seek links, tender revelers,” says one
caption.
“Let us array tendrils of mutual probing,” reads
another.
They read like high-tech fortune cookies, and it is
a rather intriguing concept.

***

Eventually, through all the media rituals and exploration of


technology and culture, Fisher began to see deeper con-
nections between people, machines and the environments
they inhabited. In 1992, he would create his first “focal
entities,” computer-generated projections that unsus-
pecting visitors were made to interact with as the images
enveloped them. This was an early look into the idea of hy-
brid life forms, combining the digital with the profoundly
human, an idea that was just beginning to be probed by
computer scientists.
Through more experimentation, these interactive Let Us Ooze Into Numb Connection
creations soon became clustered into networks, a kind of
social system where two or three entities would form re-
lationships (much like humans). These media organisms
would evolve into what Fisher now calls Zoacodes, a bionic
system of ethics.
“I didn’t know that when I began creating “focal
entities” in my Test-Site show (in Williamsburg, Brook-
lyn, 1992) that they would evolve into Bionic Codes and
Zoacodes. Those early “media organisms” were very raw
and flirted with certain power, seduction and manipulation
issues. They opened up a territory for me to explore. So
did the diagrams I made of my media rituals. In the 1990s a
number of things converged in my work and began to co-
evolve with both software and our technological culture. I
didn’t plan anything, other than commit myself to staying
within a certain zone of inquiry for the sake of continuity,”
Fisher says.

***

Once I realize that what I am looking at are Zoacodes, and


that they represent a morphable, changing ethical set, I am
instantly curious to see how these all work together. Imme-
diately my mind conjures up thoughts of traditional Judeo-
Christian value sets, ethics that mankind has passed from
generation to generation, and has changed very little.
As I examine the codes, and their accompanying
captions (my favorite reading, “equalize fucking,” which
could become a great slogan for post-feminism), it strikes Link and Seek Links, Tender Revellers
me that the Zoacodes don’t read as rules or law, but simply

art / 17
Zoacode With Two Probes Over Snow

as suggestions for one’s exploration of the world; they feel ***


like something to come from Eastern philosophy, not the
Western world of thought. There are pictures and images Fisher has continued to explore his Zoacodes, and has
of Zoacodes in the most mundane of places and situations; created what he calls the Nervepool, a digital ecosystem
in the car, in a field, or in a person’s hand. And the inter- where these bionic ethics can evolve further through feed-
esting thing is that they do not seem like foreign objects, back and media rituals. He continues to explore the con-
but instead like they belong and blend with these environ- nections between culture and technology, and considers
ments. They change with culture and feedback, allowing himself a “gardener or zoologist,” cultivating his media
them to take any number of forms and meanings. entities and events like organisms.
Fisher says, “Zoacodes are not intended to act as When asked about what he hopes the ultimate
edicts or rules, but rather open-ended, optional social goal of his work will be, Fisher says, “I hope I lead viewers
algorithms (problem-solving routines) which combine, to sense the utterly strange and wonderful nature of exis-
usurp one another, and play about…The truly open mix- tence itself. I don’t want them to get stuck on my work, per
ing and evolution takes place in a more turbulent space se. The Russian filmmaker, Tarkovsky, once said he used
of media, culture, minds and the wider environment which his camera to look with wonder at nature. I’m hoping to
sustains it all.” do something along those lines, although I include culture,
He elaborates: “I don’t expect my Zoacodes to religion and science with nature. With the Zoacodes, I hope
compete with thousands of years of religious and secular people will come away appreciating ethics and social net-
traditions. For that matter I don’t envision any ethics sys- works in general. Life is a miracle. Social experience is a
tem supplanting any other, per se, although hybridization miracle multiplied. Psycho-social-ecological experience
seems inevitable. This has already occurred, as is well is a universe whirling in a bewildering web jam.” cs
known, with the merging of Christian and Pagan traditions.
Culture seems to work like a big bubbling soup in which
multiple systems operate simultaneously, overlapping
and mixing continuously. In my ruminations on a network- Give Ebon Fisher feedback about his Zoacodes and
based ethics system, I’ve thought about how overlapping artwork at www.nervepool.net, and make sure to check
and even competing principles might cohabitate within out www.cesium-online.com for more
a single ethics system -- and perhaps even melt down at of Ebon Fisher’s art.
the edges, embracing evolution, decay and context-driven
changes in emphasis.”

art / 18
(Roommate Needed)
fiction by Jim O’Loughlin

Roommate Needed!!! A totally reasonable $275 a month! way. And he was even cool about that time Wes chased
him down with a baseball bat and understood about Wes’
These are great digs! All appliances are NEW! Washer/ meds being messed up because he said when he came
Dryer: NEW! Refrigerator: NEW! Venetian blinds: MOSTLY back from ‘Nam there were a few years he’d rather not re-
NEW! Oh, yeah, carpet: NEW! member himself.

You will want to live with us! We are: Jesse, a music major So, you’ll get your own bedroom with a nice view, as long
who also works at Sonic Music and only practices his as you like the look of brick. You can also keep the big
drums between 4:30 and 6:00 p.m.; Jason, a business major fish tank Julian left behind, though after the whole incident
and delivery dude at Pizzarama who brings home leftover with the python that escaped from the tank we’d all be
pies at the end of the night; and Wes, a philosophy major more into less-dangerous pets like hamsters or maybe a
who is currently between jobs but won’t bum a smoke off turtle.
you on ethical principles.
But anyway, where else can $275 a month get you a home
We are great people to have as roommates, and we’ll and friends? It’s like less than $100 per friend, and that
make you feel right at home. Totally open and honest and doesn’t even include the companionship of Princess, the
easy get along with unless you’re into stealing your room- amazing three-legged cat that survived the attack of the
mates’ stuff, like the last guy, Julian, which was a real buzz python. Give us a call at the number below. We’ll be happy
kill and led to a Survivor-like tribal council scene that was to talk to you anytime, except maybe not between 4:30 and
a lot less enjoyable than it looks like on TV. But we all get 6:00 p.m. when Jesse’s practicing the drums.
along great. Aside from the last guy, Julian, stealing things
and the time Wes’ meds got messed up and he threatened See ya later, peoples! cs
George, our landlord, we have never had any problems.
Read more fiction online at www.cesium-online.com
And George, our landlord, is totally cool and quite liberal
and not a slumlord by any means! If we’re a little late with
the rent, we don’t fret, because George usually forgets to
cash the checks until the middle of the next month any-

art / 19
(Audibles)
This issue, our resident audiophile, Brian Tambascio, decides to cut away the rest of the band
and focus on three musicians that explore in softer tones.

12 Songs • Neil Diamond

On his amazing enough 29th album, 12 Songs is a storytelling, acoustic concoc-


tion of slow rock and soulful lyrics, but isn’t the same old “Cherry, Cherry”
we’ve seen before. With nothing more than his voice and his guitar on most
tracks, Neil regales us with tales of broken love and lifelong struggles. One of
the best cuts is a song entitled, “Hell Yeah,” and builds beautifully up to a pow-
erfully understated conclusion. “We” features more of a polka/ragtime rhythm,
giving us classic Neil lyrics like, “Love is all about we.” He treats us to some
brass and violins on, “Evermore,” one of the catchiest tunes here. 12 Songs is
more somber overall than much of his earlier work, and that might turn some
off, but for the rest of us, Neil has produced a definite gem that will keep us
forever in blue jeans.

Back to Bedlam • James Blunt

Starting off in small bars around London, 28-year-old James Blunt is now on the
hot list all over the U.K., and his newest album is setting him off right across
the pond. Trained in piano and violin, Blunt had also been in the army for four
years before he realized his true calling was music (and we’re glad he did).
“You’re Beautiful” is his first single, featuring Blunt’s high tenor voice and an
infective chorus. The most upbeat track on the album is, “Wisemen,” with pop
rock guitar and a faint synthesizer, obviously aiming to be his next single. If
you’re in the mood for something a little slower, “Tears and Rain” and “No Brav-
ery” are more vocally focused, with touches of faint piano and acoustic guitar.
A few songs on this album love to build up to nothing, which becomes a bit of a
test of listener endurance, but overall, it proves to be a rewarding listen.

Bem-Vinda Vontade • Mice Parade

Adam Pierce, the brain behind Mice Parade holds true to his alternative-fusion
genre that (by nature) lacks definition. On his newest solo album he combines
everything from abstract funk, to slower orchestral-acoustic mishmashes, where
it sounds like everything was thrown slow-motion into the kitchen sink. “The
Days Before Fiction” is one of the most symphonic tracks, featuring a plethora of
everything from exotic percussion, synthesizer and a soaring tenor vocal track.
“Nights Wave” shifts crazily from strumming acoustics and deep drum grooves
to a sporadic guitar break, and finally mutates once more into a catchy chorus.
Certain tracks such as “Warm Hand in Farmland,” and “The Boat Room,” didn’t
seem to develop as much, but Pierce has a knack for composing with delicacy.
Some of the randomness in a few tracks wanted to drag on too far, but it might
just be the secret to Mice Parade’s musical insanity.

The rating scale? Read the beakers.


1 beaker: Pass on it • 2 beakers: Only if you’re a fan • 3 beakers: Damn good • 4 beakers: Buy Now!
Make sure to get more music/talk more music on www.cesium-online.com

me•di•a / 20
(Why I Love
Project
Runway)
essay by Scott Freeh

Look up exploitation in the dictionary, and you’ll likely


find something like, “utilization of a group or people
for selfish purposes.” And that’s precisely why I usually
rail against reality television. On principal. These days,
reality television has become synonymous with trashy
television, where people exist simply to make giant asses
of themselves or destroy their competition’s dignity bit by
bit. I would wager that if you were to ask a random person
on the street what comes to mind when they hear “reality
TV,” images of Fear Factor troopers gulping down pig
intestines and Elimidate contestants bad-mouthing each
other to win the big date would be most frequent.
And all my friends know this. They know this, and
yet they still insist on me watching it with them, usually
needling me with venomous amounts of peer pressure until
I cave. For a long time I absolutely dreaded their reality
television parties, where they would TiVo a night’s worth of
the “best” the networks had to offer for the week, get a case
(or three) of Leinenkugel’s, and enjoy. And to their credit, the
sheer volume of alcohol made the programming somewhat
bearable, but I would still dread those Sunday nights.
Until we found Project Runway.
It’s a simple, unassuming show, courtesy of the Bravo
network, and I’ll admit that I was skeptical the first time
around. A show about fashion, and fashion designing, no less?
I tend to swear by Russell hooded sweatshirts and stocking
caps that make me look like a dock worker; hardly a fashion
statement. And I’m supposed to like a show about people of
debatable sexual orientation designing ball gowns?
By reason alone, it did not seem like a programming
fit for me.
At its heart, Project Runway adheres to the standard
reality format. It begins with a dozen (give or take)
hopefuls, and slowly whittles the field down to one lucky
soul over the course of a season. Fairly straight forward,
nothing new; my friends even admitted that they only
initially recorded the show because they recognized Heidi
Klum, supermodel extraordinaire, as a judge on the show.
But after that first hour, we were hooked.
Perhaps the addiction came from the way that
we learn to love the designers, like a good film; we learn
their eccentricities and their motivations in a depth that

me•di•a / 21
is seemingly absent from most reality television. Instead
of learning where someone got their breasts done, or the
gym they work out in, we learn about their struggles to
make a name in the fashion world, something inherently
more interesting to me (although it might be because
writers experience much of the same thing). Other shows
thirsty?
have confessional moments, where characters dish to the
camera, and cry about how much they hate one person
or another; Project Runway has this, of course, but we also
get to hear Santino talking about the madness behind his
latest design, or Nick contemplating his muse. We see the
ideas for the designs coming together before any work is
even done. It’s a soap opera of creativity.
And then there are the clothes. Watching these
hip, young designers construct and invent hip, young out-
fits from nothing makes us feel hip. As we listen to Zulema
describe just why we need an interlock sewing machine,
we feel knowledgeable about fashion, something that, and
I can speak freely for my friends here, we have never felt
before. As we watch Daniel and Chloe sewing crazily to
beat the midnight deadline, it sets us to talking about how
that skirt just does not work, or what a shitty design Andre
has committed to. When the models begin to strut confi-
dently down the runway, we readily discuss our favorites
and guess at what design will give a fated designer the
axe. We flex our creative and aesthetic muscles, and bring
our own opinions to bear, a rarity in reality television.
The appeal of the whole process may come from
the fact that the show focuses around a form of creativity
that everyone has their fingers in. Everyone has a sense of
fashion, whether it is good or not. Even my dad, who can’t
seem to dress himself in coordinating colors, thinks he is
incredibly stylish, and becomes slightly offended when
my mother tells him to take off the Member’s Only jacket.
Project Runway makes high fashion incredibly
accessible, and it makes us feel cool for taking part in it.
Watching Fear Factor does not make me want to jump out
of a moving car, and Survivor does not make me want to
wear fig leaves and stomp around a tropical island. But,
really, after watching Project Runway, I say to myself, “I bet
I could do that.” Not in a dismissive way, but in an embrac-
ing way, because, man, I’d really like to try.
Of course, it should be obvious to me that I can’t
do that; I wouldn’t even come close. I lack the training, the
fashion school and the incredibly stylish gay eye. But the
fact that my friends and I are intrigued by the sheer cre-
ativity that these designers bring to bear means that we
come back, week after week, and hopefully will for sea-
sons to come.
Now if I could only get these homemade leopard-
print pants to fit right. cs
The Dublin House
325 2nd Avenue
Get more pointless media analysis at Cedar Rapids, Iowa
www.cesium-online.com
(319)364-5525
Serviving 16 varieties of Irish and
Domestic beer on tap

me•di•a / 22
(Return to the Cult)
This issue, Brian Tambascio looks at Wes Anderson’s pioneering indie film, Bottle Rocket, and why
it’s quite possibly the seventh best film of the 90’s
Some Background?

In 1996, fledgling director Wes Anderson co-wrote the quirky movie


Bottle Rocket with his college friend Owen Wilson. The script was
passed from contact to contact until it made it into the hands of James
L. Brooks, who ponied up five million for production. The movie stars
Owen Wilson as Dignin, an inept but hopelessly optimistic robber, and
his “gang”, featuring Luke Wilson as Anthony, the goodhearted ro-
mantic, and Robert Musgrave as Bob Mapplethorpe (named after the
controversial photographer), the conflicted getaway driver. Screen leg-
end James Caan also shows up to play the small role of Mr. Henry, the
master thief/landscaper, and is just another example of the dynamite
performances throughout. Unfortunately, the nuances seemed to be lost
on audiences, pulling in one million in ticket sales before making an
untimely exit from theaters.

What’s the big deal?

Throughout the 90’s, if not earlier, independent film was the place to find
new talent and loads of creative vision, and many of them moved on to
become cult films. Wes Anderson is the prime example of this cinematic
aesthetic, and in Bottle Rocket, crafts not just the story of a group of bum-
bling criminals, but the touching tale of how far dreams and optimism
can take you (refreshing, instead of the crop of slacker epics flooding
the theaters at the time). He pulls it off with his unique style, such as
long shots of oddball objects (like army figurines) and a frequent focus
on hands, demonstrating an in-depth knowledge of unconventional sto-
rytelling. The dialog flows like the entire movie was improvised, and in
the process, forges an incredibly dry and subtle humor, present in all
the interactions between Dignin and Anthony. Combine this with the
fast scene cuts Anderson seems to prefer, and the touching relationship
between Anthony and Inez, the English-impaired housekeeper, and you
have an independent film that breaks boundaries.

The cult legacy?

Even though the film wasn’t in theaters long, it has slowly spread like a
virus through the internet community, cultivating a large collection of
dedicated fans. Wes Anderson would go on to direct movies like Rush-
more, The Royal Tenenbaums and The Life Aquatic, all staying true to the
unique vision that he pioneered with Bottle Rocket. The Wilson brothers
would go on to be superstars in their own right, showing up frequently
in Anderson productions and on their own. Legendary director Martin
Scorsese even picked this movie as his seventh favorite movie of the
90’s in an interview with Roger Ebert, so you know it has to be good.

How should you watch it?

Watch it with two of your best friends, while wearing matching yellow
jumpsuits. cs

Get more movies online at www.cesium-online.com

me•di•a / 23
(In Search of Bennifer)
essay by Janice Houlihan
I will readily admit that I am a tabloid freak; I relish
turning the pages of countless gossip mags while I wait
in line at the store to buy the essentials, like Hagen
Daz ice cream and the latest Queen Latifah movie.
These magazines, printed on flimsy paper and seem-
ingly designed by monkeys throwing opposing colors and
headline texts onto the page, have long held me under
their spell. Where else can you see the latest celebrity to
pack on the pounds, or break up in grand style with their
longtime spouse for the new, hip kid on the block? I strive
to keep up on all the twists and turns between the stars,
and in the process it becomes like a mini-soap opera. Oh,
the suspense until the next issue!
However, in all my years of studying these shame-
less purveyors of celebrity excess, I’ve just noticed the
recent trend of what I can only call name combination. It
may sound slightly odd, but anyone that has emerged from
under a rock and watched television will know what I’m
referring to.
Bennifer. Brangelina. Tomkat.
It’s the apparently recent phenomenon of bringing
two people’s names together to form one unique identi-
fier. It all started, of course, with Ben Affleck and the Latin

cul•ture / 24
bombshell Jennifer Lopez in 2002. Their romance intrigued So where exactly does this pop culture phenome-
us, and gave every tabloid freak something to live for (if non hail from? It’s not as if this is a long-standing Hollywood
that seems sad, you just don’t understand). For those that practice; one of the classic celebrity couples, Spencer
aren’t as celebrity savvy, the two actors, both already huge Tracey and Katherine Hepburn, never altered their names
stars, met on the set of their hit movie, Gigli, and ignited a to become a singular unit (and actually, they spent their
paparazzi storm as their romance heated up exponentially. lives avoiding the press), and you’ve never heard Johnny
The general public quickly fell into line, obsessed Cash and his wife June Carter Cash referred to as, “Cash-
with getting the latest news about the couple, whether it Cash,” although it definitely sounds cute. In all actuality,
be from the latest issue of People, or nightly updates from one of the only classic examples available is that of Lucille
Access Hollywood (myself included). Although it isn’t de- Ball and Desi Arnaz’s production company, formed in the
finitive where the name came early 1950’s, entitled Desilu,
from or who originated it, the cleverly combining names
couple was soon referred to into one of television’s most
lovingly, simply, as, “Bennifer.” prolific production companies
There was no more mention of ever; this name wasn’t used to
Ben Affleck’s entire name, nor identify the couple, although
Jennifer Lopez’s (which had al- the state of celebrity tabloid
ready been unofficially short- media was much different (if
ened to the catchy J. Lo); the not non-existent) at that point.
two became the entity known However, it turns out that
as Bennifer, and upon their glo- the concept of linguistic com-
riously public breakup in 2003, bination is hardly as new as it
people continued to feverously may seem. The practice of fus-
discuss the demise of Bennifer. ing two or more words, and si-
It seemed that imme- multaneously combining their
diately after, the public’s taste meanings into one, is known as
for these name combinations a portmanteau (port-man-too).
could not be satiated, spawn- Linguists and other people that
ing most recently, “Tomkat,” to religiously study the usage and
symbolize actors Tom Cruise evolution of language (includ-
and Katie Holmes’ connection, ing those that insist on correct-
and “Brangelina,” standing in ing me when I say who, instead
place for actors Brad Pitt and of whom) have other sub-cat-
Angelina Jolee. Perhaps act- egories and definitions of this
ing in the spirit of precedent practice, dependent on how
that Bennifer gave us, all of and what words are brought to-
these couples were the subject gether, but for our intents and
of tabloid scrutiny, attracting purposes, we will simply look
photographers everywhere at the cultural phenomenon of
the couple went, and giving us portmanteau.
celebrity press conferences, The fact of the matter is that
most notably Tom Cruise’s It’s not easy being a portmanteau the combination of words is
public announcement of his all around us, in ways that we
engagement to Katie Holmes (which was rumored to be a never even pause to think about in our daily conversa-
promotional stunt for newly released movies by the actors, tions. Ever eat brunch? That’s obviously lunch and dinner
but I digress). squished together, used to describe an awkwardly-timed
As I sit, staring at the stacks of People and Star that late morning meal. What about use a camcorder? That
surround my desk and fill my shopping carts, I can’t help would be a camera and a recorder, designed to compactly
but wonder about the actual act of these name bastardiza- capture embarrassing moments for reshowing at family
tions, and where they came from. Perhaps it is the sign of reunions. Ever watched an infomercial, done jazzercise,
an extremely busy society, one that has no time for extra or stayed in a motel? These portmanteaux (notice the
syllables and wants to trim every word into the most com- plural spelling) are so ingrained in our society, that not
pact form available; this makes sense, but the logic fails only does the mention of them here seem rather mundane,
when I look around me and realize this phenomenon is but also doesn’t even get a raise of the eyebrow from my
not occurring in personally significant relationships. My spellchecker. Even the word muppet is readily recognized,
parents (Mark and Katherine) have not become a catchy bringing together a marionette and a puppet, and that’s
signifier, like “Markine,” or “Kathark.” My friends do not slightly more exotic than the last examples.
say things about my boyfriend (George Spanzants) and I If this demonstrates that the idea of combining
like, “did you hear the latest about Janspanszants?” as ut- two words into one has been around for a long, long time,
terly hilarious as that may be. it should be no surprise that we’ve finally gotten around

cul•ture / 25
In Willy Wonka, author Roald Dahl gave us Wonkavision, bringing together a name (Wonka)
and an item (television), and paved the way for name combinations like Bennifer.
to shoving two names into the space of one. In fact, this their creations, and are obviously hesitant or reluctant to
follows a sort of trend in language that’s exploded in the let them fade away into pop history. It’s only natural.
past half-century, where people are getting quite creative Hulkamania. The Governator.
with the words they stick together. Procrasturbate (the root It seems our love with these combinations is here
words should be obvious) means,“to delay because it feels to stay, although I must note that I recently read that the
good,” and chillaxing (from chilling and relaxing), which hyphen (as in, Jolie-Pitt) is poised to become the new port-
obviously refers to a state of deep relaxation, are just a manteau. Even if this is the case, I predict that the gossip
few examples of the creativity embodied in English slang. masses will always relish the chance to lump our favorite
Wonkavision, the pioneering device that dooms Mike celebrities’ names together, if only to display our mastery
Teevee in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, comes of English and to feel like a part of a powerful relationship.
from a combination of Wonka and television, and further Now, the only thing I have left to do is to get George
combines television with teleportation in a complex (yet to start using Janspanzants. At least in front of our friends.
funny) way. Then it should catch on, no problem. cs
Some combinations never really seem to get in-
grained in our public consciousness (insannibis? A port-
manteau of insane and cannabis), while some get snatched Send us your most creative, original portmanteaux at
up quickly and incorporated in pop culture’s fluid vocabu- www.cesium-online.com. Maybe you’ll redefine the
lary; metrosexual (commonly quoted to bring together language.
metropolitan and heterosexual), a fairly new word on the
scene, referring to an extremely well-dressed man, has
found a home in the Oxford English Dictionary. The word
crunk (crazy and drunk) is currently being shouted by
every college student in America.
And so now, as language continues to shift and
evolve, we get Bennifer. And Billary (Bill and Hillary Clin-
ton). And Brangelina, Tomkat and Speaderline (for Brit-
ney Spears and her perpetually stoned husband/backup
dancer, Kevin Federline). It should be no surprise that our
obsession with creating new words has given us the gift
of these identifiers; but it seems that names like “Vaugh-
niston” (Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Anniston) are more
than just a little silly nameplay. It represents our desire
to compactly sum up all of the media hype and craziness
surrounding these celebrity couple’s lives. Using the word
Tomkat in a sentence does more than just identify the sub-
ject; it brings connotations of the swarming paparazzi, the
Oprah interviews and ridiculous weddings.
Using these names also seems to suggest that
these couples are truly larger than life, and no are no lon-
ger separate people; they combine to create a superhu-
man, much like the creatures of ancient mythology which
combined animals and humans to make a result that you’d
be afraid to go near (unless it was a unicorn). Even though
Ben Affleck married actress Jennifer Garner after his split
with Lopez, the new couple was affectionately (depend-
ing on the viewpoint) called “Bennifer II,” instead of the www.pokerschool.com
more humorous “Garfleck”. People feel attachments to

cul•ture / 26
(Erasing the Razor)
an essay by Paul C. Middleton

If there’s one thing I truly hate, and hate being a step, as time was clearly at a premium. However, before
strong word, it would have to be shaving. I think I fall applying the hideous-smelling lotion (ironically labeled
into league with most men here. Since late seventh grade, as Raspberry Raz-ma-tazz, which sounded delicious), I did
it’s been a chore to scrape my face smooth just so my girl- some last minute research online, and found one too many
friend would stick around. Standing in front of the mirror tales of people developing, “patches of skin resembling
every morning, eyes half open, and dragging a dull razor severe sunburn,” which took weeks to heal.
across the stubble that’s crept in overnight, I wish for ei- So I applied it liberally to my armpit as a trial.
ther the ability to grow a full beard, or a genetic makeup The directions instructed me to wait approximate-
that keeps my facial hair at bay. ly five minutes before wiping off the lotion with a damp
Then one day, after applying a whole styptic pencil washcloth, but no more than 10 minutes (the last part was
to my face to stop the bleeding (which stings like dipping in big bold letters). The first minute was bearable, but then
a fresh cut into a glass of lemon juice), I said to myself, the tingling quickly changed to a dull burn. Around the
“there has to be a better way.” three minute mark, my eyes began to continually dart to
I quickly took to the internet, searching for a cure the clock to see if time had elapsed. At four minutes, I sin-
to my shaving blues. There were a multitude of websites cerely thought I heard the pores of my armpits screaming.
dedicated to hair removal in varying forms, from the sim- When the clock finally stopped at five minutes
ple (plucking) to the expensive and involved (electroly- (sweet relief!), I gingerly wiped the hair away with a damp
sis). After a few hours of searching, I decided on trying washcloth and inspected the area. The hair had been
several remedies for my hatred of the razor. wiped away semi-cleanly, but the area was quite irritated,
The first stop on my hair removal tour de force was like I had just used a deodorant laced with acid. The Nair
Nair, the famous depilatory lotion. You might remember would go nowhere near my face.
the old Nair commercials, with happy women running The next idea was an intriguing one; it was called
down the beach in swimsuits and perfectly smoothed legs the HairOff Facial Buffer (as seen on TV!). It claimed to,“buff
(“who wears short shorts?”). The idea was that a quick away facial hair gently, instantly and easily, with no pain,
application of this lotion would essentially melt away the no chemicals and no mess.” Ignoring the implied image
hair, leaving you with smoother skin, for a longer time than of someone from a janitorial company using a floor buffer
shaving. Sounded like the million dollar idea. on my face, it sounded like a win-win, and even better than
After picking up a bottle at the store, I studied the melting my hair (and skin) away with depilatory lotion.
label for warnings. There were plenty; the bottle advised I opened the box and found a purple plastic holder,
me to apply a small amount to a hidden area and wait for and three sandpaper-like pads. The bi-lingual directions
24 hours to check for adverse reactions. I skipped this (Spanish and German) told me to attach one of the pads to

cul•ture / 27
the purple holder, and then gently stroke my face with it in In a final thought of desperation, I remembered a
a counterclockwise direction. Simple enough. website that I had stumbled upon, where men discussed
I did as I was told, rubbing the coarse pad over my the use of Rogaine to stimulate hair growth on the face.
week’s growth; I could feel the top layer of my skin slowly These men were probably much like me; desperate to
being erased, but the hair stayed put. I pushed harder, grow a great Old Testament beard and have an excuse to
but to no avail. After about ten minutes of this (and a lot not shave every morning. It was very ZZ Top.
of wishful thinking), the hair remained intact and my skin When I looked into it more, however, the side ef-
was raw. I assumed it was what fish felt like when they have fects began to outweigh the benefits. Men who had ex-
their scales removed. I decided to stop the experiment, perimented with Rogaine, which works by supposedly
before I rubbed a hole in my cheek. stimulating hair follicles, reported waiting up to 90 days
Disappointed and disillusioned, I thought of one to begin seeing results. Furthermore, Minoxidil (the ac-
last technique. I had always heard of people getting hair tive ingredient in Rogaine) apparently enters your system
waxed off, and it was generally touted as the most effec- upon repeated use, instead of simply working at the site
tive way to get rid of body hair for long periods of time. It of application. This led some men to report extra growth
sounded a bit painful (perhaps best portrayed recently in of hair on their back, chest, legs, and even foreheads. Not
The 40 Year Old Virgin), but it seemed to be a quick pain, wanting Nair my forehead every few days, I logged off,
and easier than losing a pint of blood every morning in defeated.
front of the mirror. And so, after all of my experiments in eliminating
I called a local salon to inquire about getting it the chore of shaving from my life, I trudged back to the
done professionally. mirror, resigned to my fate as a man in a clean-shaven cul-
“Sure, we can wax your face,” the woman on the ture. My Mach 3 almost seemed to laugh at me for trying to
other end said cheerfully. escape his chemically-coated blades (for my comfort) and
“How often would I need to wax it?” his ergonomic handle. My only hope now is that some day
“A man’s face?” She thought for a moment. “Well, I can engage in progressive gene therapy that will replace
probably like once or twice a week.” the gene that turns me into a gorilla overnight, with one
“Really? Once or twice a week?” that keeps me as smooth as a Neutrogena model. cs
“That’s just a guess.”
“Okay. How much would it cost?” Get more hygene at www.cesium-online.com
“About 30 dollars a session.”
That’s when I hung up the phone. As much as I hated
shaving, it was not worth 60 dollars a week to have wax
drizzled on my face, and the hair violently removed, strip
by strip. But that didn’t mean I couldn’t try it at home.
I located the Sally Hansen Hair Remover Wax Strip
Kit (what a mouthful) at the store, right next to the facial buf-
fer, which, in hind-sight, was probably not a good sign. The
box said it was both dermatologist and salon tested, and
boasted smooth results for up to eight weeks. It sounded
like the Holy Grail.
With the help of my roommate, we carefully
warmed up the waxing strips and placed one on my cheek,
over the now patchy beard that was taking shape. We were
careful to place the strip with the grain, and pressed down
hard to ensure a good adherence. My heart rate jumped as
my roommate grasped the edge of the strip and prepared
to yank it off like an old band-aid. The question was raised
as to whether we should count down, or if she should just
pull the strip quickly without telling me.
“This isn’t helping my nerves,” I said. She placed
the end of a toothbrush into my mouth for me to bite down
on, as we were apparently out of bullets.
And then she pulled. There was no countdown.
If you’ve ever seen someone wax hair off their
body, and haven’t tried it yourself, you might think that
their yelp of pain is simply an overreaction. Please do not
believe this. My face stung like I had just put it into a tank
of active jellyfish. Although I could not deny that the skin
was now smooth and stubble-free, the odds of me using
the facial buffer were more likely than ripping hair off my
face once a week.

cul•ture / 28
(Plain Speaking)
This issue, T. Dalley Waterhaus scares his therapist and pontificates
on the PR successes of an administration.

As the war on terror progresses, now threatening


to slurp up Iran in its path to world democracy,
American style, it seems that the public is finally
starting to come to. Once upon a time, it felt like
everyone was behind Bush, doing their patriotic duty
and keeping their mouths shut, no matter where the
ship’s course seemed to head. Those of who spoke
out, whether it was against the war, torture, or even
seemingly mundane things like the economy, were
quickly and efficiently silenced. We were marginal-
ized, pushed to the edge of the debate and labeled as
crazy (which, undoubtedly, some of us were), as liber-
als (which some of us are), or as both (Ted Kennedy).
And yet, it appears, much like modern teen-
age fashion, what was once out is now in again. It is no
longer viewed as political suicide to denounce the
war, torture of prisoners, or even the administration’s
handling of natural disasters. Perhaps, if I may be so
bold to suggest it, political dissent has achieved some
form of vogue, a kind of social chic, among those with
any measurable influence on society (read: the media
and celebrities). Representative Jack Murtha, who
was once denounced as a crackpot for calling for the
withdrawal of troops immediately from Iraq, is now
looked upon in a sort of awe for having the huevos
to stand up to the Republican dogma hanging over
Washington like a bad Los Angeles smog cloud.
As I watch all of this unfold, and the media
slowly begin to say, “perhaps we shouldn’t have
agreed with everything the administration told us,”
well, I can’t help but smile and realize just how damn
brilliant this administration is. Absolute genius!
Anyone who knows me has probably already us from the real debates, like why gay marriage is horribly
called the mental health institution at this point, but evil (instead of some war overseas people keep talking
allow me a moment to explain. about). Despite the possibility that the administration used
The Bush Administration, along with the some questionable means to persuade the masses (releas-
help of expert spin surgeons like Karl Rove (which is ing ‘news clips’ produced by the propaganda department
spelled much like Karl Marx, just for reference), has to run in conventional news channels), and even some
managed the national discourse better than Joe Mon- possibly illegal ones (anyone remember Valerie Plame?
tana running a two-minute offense. All the talk, all Didn’t think so.), it remains fact that they were completely
the dissent, has been controlled. If anyone with any successful in controlling and shaping the debate as it
significant amount of clout felt like saying something ‘evolved’ in the country.
demeaning or contrary to what the administration Now we see this slow change through the media, a
was vocalizing, the administration simply marginal- tide of people rallying against the administration.“If you’re
ized those voices with a barrage of conservative so smart, T.D., why isn’t the administration shutting these
views crying foul. people up?” you ask. Well, the fact of the matter is that they
“How un-American of you to say that!” no longer need to. The administration, and the Republican
“The idea that President Bush has no plan for Party in general, has beat the Democratic Party to such a
this country is absurd.” bloody pulp that if there was a referee, he’d call for a TKO.
“Let’s get back to the real debate, Mr. Colmes.” There’s nothing left of the Democrats; they’re fragmented
Rinse, repeat, and voila! It suddenly becomes and disarrayed. The Bush administration knows better
obvious to the average American worker that Demo- than hit a man when he’s down (that’s just not American,
crats, and the left in general, are only interested in after all), and so we now hear the multitudes that had been
demeaning our commander-in-chief and distracting previously suppressed.

pol•i•tics / 29
Of course, it would be ridiculous to think that the
administration would lose control of the situation at hand;
sure, the administration openly came out and admitted it
might have listened in on your weekly phone calls to your
girlfriend in Afghanistan, but really, it wasn’t illegal. Sure,
they admit the war may have been misguided, but hell,
we’re there, so we’d better finish the job. The conserva- A son back from Iraq.
tives have gotten extremely proficient in giving the left just A husband busy collecting
bodies.
enough rope to hang themselves with, and the Democrats
seemingly do it with glee.
Of course, this is not to say that public opinion A wife addicted to disaster
hasn’t reacted to the administration’s mess-ups; Bush’s poll coverage.
numbers remain at basement level, and show little sign
of jumping up. Republican representatives and senators A family unwraveling to its
seem torn in following their leader or distancing them- fractured conclusion.
selves from what seems to be scandal after scandal. But
let’s face it; the fact that the Democrats lack a coherent
strategy to fight back lets the Republicans sleep at night introducting Peter Well’s
(most likely on a Tempurpedic mattress). incendiary debut novel,
Until the left can find a galvanizing force to bring
them back to relevancy, even I can’t help but sit back and
applaud the administration’s brilliant maneuvers. It’s pure

Salvaging the Dead


textbook marketing; now, if only the Democrats could get
to the library and read it. cs

Get more T. Dalley Waterhaus and a 24-hour politics


buffet at www.cesium-online.com
Wells is the new master of
understated post-modern angst...
this should be his introduction to
literary circles everywhere.
-The Omaha Review

[Wells] develops scenarios you


could only dream of, and then
forget as soon as you wake.
-The New Criticism

Spectacular...it reads like


something from a much more
established author.
-KMR

Available in May from


the Greenbourgh Press
and bookstores everywhere
www.theGreenboughPress.com

pol•i•tics / 30
(a blank page)

pol•i•tics / 31
(Why No News is
Good News)
Essay by Paul C. Middleton
It doesn’t take a genius of any sort to realize that our the debate, and simply put, it got things done.
country is divided in its ideologies. We have one group Yet, in today’s national climate, it is becoming
populating the big cities and costal areas that vote along evident that this sort of political happy-medium is disap-
fairly liberal lines, and we have another from the South pearing, and a sizeable gap is widening between the right
and Midwest that typically lean towards the conservative. and the left. A look at the headlines of any major paper
This, on its own, is not a large shock by any means, as it will most likely reference Democratic filibusters over Re-
has statistically always been the case; the people in the publican appointments and Republican threats to utilize
middle of America (frequently referred to as, “the Bible the ominous-sounding nuclear option. Poll numbers illus-
Belt”) are often raised in environments with more conser- trate the fact even more vividly; a CBS poll reports that in
vative roots, focusing around a sturdy work ethic and the 1980, only 43% of respondents felt there were large, major
idea that the government should mind its own business, differences between the two national political parties; in
while the masses in city centers experience a plethora of 1998, that number jumped to 63%. The poll also reports
ideas and ethics melting together. that 51% of respondents feel that George W. Bush has di-
Historically, these two political viewpoints always vided people, while only 32% of people feel that he has
seemed to get along and respect each other, inhabiting united America.
the national realm with a sense of dignity, and an under- This slow growing division has become more
standing that both sides were present for a reason, like evident than ever. These days, the word liberal is bandied
some sort of Western ying and yang. That’s not to say that about like an obscenity among conservatives, using it as a
the Republicans and the Democrats always cooperated blanket term to describe anyone that adheres to the Dem-
(which was often far from the case), but it should be noted ocratic platform, even if they still remain fairly centered
that people were once more able to envision both sides of in their ideologies. Any mention of universal health care

pol•i•tics / 32
brings about comparisons to Communism, and lists of the all in an attempt to garner ratings.
“most liberal senators” appear in the media every year News channel biases are obvious to most consum-
with growing focus, reading like a blacklist, a condemna- ers of cable television, and the PRC shows that 72% of
tion of Democratic voting records. people believe news channels only report on one side of
Likewise, the term conservative is tossed about on an issue, which is not at all false. For example, Fox News,
college campuses and in Starbucks coffee shops the same which bills itself as,“fair and balanced,” is often earmarked
way; liberals look upon the right as people lacking souls as the conservative channel of choice, hosting fare such
and compassion, willing to hand government (and possi- as The O’Reilly Factor and Special Report with Brit Hume.
bly their own mothers) over to corporate control, when in These shows make an effort to present opinionated view-
reality, a person may define him or herself as a conserva- points on the day’s news, which tend to be more conserva-
tive simply because they dislike taxes. Aligning a person tive in nature. Likewise, CNN (as to a lesser extent MSNBC)
with the Christian right has become an even more dubious has been cast the more liberal choice, where shows like
distinction, conjuring images of religious zealotry and an Anderson Cooper 360 advertise the asking of probing
appetite for abortion clinic bombings. questions of those in charge. CNN has famously been la-
The two parties refuse to talk to each other and beled by critics, such as the group Accuracy in Media, as
keep to themselves, never attempting to engage in a the “Clinton News Network,” or “Clearly Not Neutral.” PBS
clean, honest debate. When legislation stalls in Congress, features News Hour, and is viewed by many people as the
Democrats and Republicans jump to blame each other for ultra-liberal choice because of outspoken criticism of Re-
the bottleneck and accuse the opposite side of partisan publican administrations, although PBS lacks the viewing
politics. Each year, the tactics exposure of CNN.
grow dirtier, with the best “Organizations that specialize in the This matches up with poll-
example being George W. delivery of the news are themselves ing done by the PRC, which
Bush’s attacks on John Kerry’s shows that the television
Vietnam service in the 2004 becoming polarized and staking claims to choices people make are
presidential campaign, where territory once untouched by traditional quickly becoming linked
Kerry’s service and valor
were openly questioned and
news outlets.” to their ideologies. Over
half of Fox News viewers
tarnished (although it should be noted that Democrats are describe themselves as conservative (52%), compared to
certainly guilty of similar things, such as forged National only 36% of CNN’s audience. This demonstrates that when
Guard records showing Bush skipped out on duty.). These people tune into news channels, they are more often than
sentiments of discontent are prevailing not only in Wash- not looking for affirmation of their existing beliefs, rather
ington, but across the country as we all take sides and re- than confirmation of objective facts. This presents a quan-
fuse to look over the political divide separating us. dary to traditional journalistic practices; traditional jour-
But what is to blame for this growing polarization, and nalism espouses the unbiased telling of stories, but these
more importantly, is there a way to restore a semblance of mod- news networks blur those long-standing rules by deliver-
eration (or at least sanity) to our nation’s political thought? ing the news with a slant, whether the slant is pronounced
That, of course, is a bit of a loaded question, as or not.
there are undoubtedly a variety of causes for the politi- Our problem of political division partly arises from
cal gap. But while it is certainly not a complete answer, the fact that viewers develop loyalties to these networks,
a likely source is today’s popular media. Organizations and thus begin the process of polarization in their thoughts.
that specialize in the delivery of the news are themselves Fox News is generally more supportive of the current Bush
becoming polarized and staking claims to territory once administration than the other major cable networks, and
untouched by traditional news outlets. And this is quickly predictably, people that frequently tune into Fox News
transferring to the public. find fewer problems in the way the country is governed
Perhaps the most influential are television offer- (CBS polls show that 75% of Republicans feel the country
ings, as it is most readily identified as the public’s primary is headed in the right direction). Likewise, since CNN and
source of news (a Pew Research Center [PRC] study puts MSNBC typically ask tough questions (MSNBC’s Hardball
the percentage of people relying on the television for news with Chris Matthews makes a living off of this), viewers will
at 74%). Some time ago, long before I was even born, the often find themselves being critical of the administration
only sources for news on television were the three major in office (the same CBS polls show 83% of Democrats feel
networks: ABC, CBS, and NBC. Because the viewer’s choic- the country is headed in the wrong direction).
es were limited to the big three, competition was relatively However, the blame can hardly be limited to the
tame, with networks primarily competing for the big scoop. television side of the media. The internet, and political blog-
And then came the spate of cable news channels, begin- ging more specifically, have opened news consumers up to
ning with CNN in 1980, and the fight for audience share an exponentially greater set of ideas. Blogs have allowed
was on. Networks were not only fighting to be the first to any person with a computer the chance to share their views
break a story, but were trying to keep the audience’s atten- with the world, and are a wonderful step towards grassroots
tion around the clock. All of these new channels professed political involvement; however, when people take to the
the same journalistic standards as other news outlets, and internet to become informed, they still tend to gravitate
yet seemed to cater to certain segments of the population, towards sites that share their same ideology. Conservative

pol•i•tics / 33
readers will be more likely to surf to the blog, Blogs for blog. This makes working with disparate groups and par-
Bush, for example, while liberal readers will be found on ties increasingly difficult, and limits the amount that we
websites like Left is Right. The major news networks all can get done, because of a lack of consensus. This can only
operate blogs as well, but they remained aligned with serve to harm our country.
their viewing demographic’s ideologies, and usually offer This is not to say that a person should not listen to
little extra insight into the political happenings of the day. the views of their political party of choice; the great thing
While unbiased news sources abound on the internet (the about our society is that you are free to read what you like.
BBC’s international news site remains one of the best), it However, when news consumers are looking for unbiased
seems that people are more inclined to stay with their own information about the latest national disaster, election or
party, which rarely avoids spin and congressional debate, consum-
continues to propagate existing “People are ignoring the one source ers should be conscious about
beliefs, even if they prove to be er- of unbiased news, in favor of party the source they turn to, and how
roneous. it affects what they hear. Viewers
It should be noted at this propoganda.” can make decisions to turn not
point that print news, a longtime only to their favorite blogs or
mainstay of news organizations (as it was obviously present news channels, but also to news sources that are known for
before television was even conceived), continues its “de- their impartiality in the reporting (such as The New York
cade-long slide,” in popularity, according to the PRC, with Times or the BBC) for a second opinion. Of course, we all
only 42% of Americans reporting that they read a newspa- know the world is becoming a busier and busier place,
per “yesterday” (down from 58% in 1994). This is occurring and most will argue that they don’t have time to check the
while many academic and independent studies of main- facts of one source against another; I would argue that in
stream print media, such as The New York Times and The today’s complex political climate, where decisions made
Washington Post, show that they are often the most objective across the planet can have huge effects on Americans,
reporters of the news, despite allegations of bias from both knowledge is the ultimate power, and we cannot afford to
sides of the political spectrum. People are ignoring the one limit our knowledge to any one source.
source of unbiased news, in favor of party propaganda. Through a little effort to examine all sides of an
So now that we know about the polarization of the issue or debate, we are able to better cooperate with each
most popular forms of media, the question remains as to other, and in turn, accomplish more as citizens. By stop-
whether we can do anything about it, or if it’s even a prob- ping to read that headline, you connect yourself with the
lem at all. national debate that affects everyone. By reading both a
Polarization of public political sentiment is cer- liberal and conservative viewpoint, we become more bal-
tainly not going to go away anytime soon, but it should anced people.
definitely be a warning sign and red flag for people that And isn’t that what we need right now anyway? cs
are interested in a productive public debate. As people
continue to subscribe to news channels that deliver facts
geared to one segment’s beliefs, audiences will be more Check out www.cesium-online.com for more cynical
and more likely to see other sides of a debate as wrong, political opinions.
because the opposing ideas are not represented by their
source of choice, whether it is Fox News or a trendy new

Check out writing from...


Chuck Dooley
T. Dalley Waterhaus
Brian Tambascio
David Surrey
Susan Stuart
Tristan Abbott
Ron Sandvik
Dave Donovan
and more...

Art. Media. Culture. Politics. Continued.

Gourmet Cooking.com www.cesium-online.com


fish • poultry • beef • pork • vegetarian
pol•i•tics / 34
(Upcoming Events)
A quick look at the events you might find Cesium at, if we ever left the office.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Are you dying to see some great stand-up comedy that leaves you tearing up and gasping for air? Would you settle for
some amateur comedy? Penguin’s Comedy Club, located in downtown Cedar Rapids, will be hosting Amateur Night,
showcasing the finest non-professional talent in the area. Look for a superb five minute set from Cesium’s own Brian
Tambascio, and make sure to head back on April 13th for the Amateur Night Contest, where the best of the best will be
selected. Showtime is at 7:00, tickets available at the door.

Saturday, April 8, 2006


The Lampost Theatre & Coffeehouse, in association with the Hearst Center for the Arts and Filmnotes.com, will show-
case a night of creative philosophizing with the first annual “Why Am I Here?” Film Festival. Amateur filmmakers from
Eastern Iowa will screen films ranging from 30 seconds to 30 minutes, all in search of answering the question, “why?”

The Lampost Theatre & Coffeehouse is located on Seerley Boulevard, just blocks away from the University of Northern
Iowa. Check out filmnotes.com/whyfilmfest for more info.

Saturday, April 8, 2006

Spring is here, and that can only mean one thing: new clothing lines. The place to be is at the annual University of North-
ern Iowa Fashion Show, produced by students in the Textiles and Apparel Program. The theme is “Style Perspectives,”
and it will feature designs ranging from evening wear to wearable art. The show takes place in the Lang Hall Auditorium,
and doors open at 7:30. Make sure to stick around after the show for a portfolio review and reception at the Center for
Multicultural Education in Maucker Union.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Remember a few years back, when camouflage was all the rage? Yeah, neither do we, but we are told it has officially re-
turned, courtesy of the University of Northern Iowa Art Department. They will play host to the “Camouflage: Art, Science
and Popular Culture,” mini-conference, focusing on all things camouflage, from the artistic, scientific and psychological
side of things, to military and fashion-related concealment and deception. It will feature half-hour talks and slide shows
from over 37 world-renowned scholars throughout the day. Make sure to wear your finest M*A*S*H t-shirt.

To pre-register, send a $20 check (made out to the UNI Department of Art) to:
Camouflage Conference
UNI Art Department
Cedar Falls, IA 50614-0362
Please remember to indicate the name of the person registering and contact information (mailing address and email).
On-site registration is also available.

Send questions to Prof. Roy R. Behrens at ballast@netins.net. Tell him Cesium sent you.

mis•cel•la•ne•a / 35
Romero Tattoo & Piercing
2700 8th Avenue • Rock Island, IL